Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), although relatively new to the Western world, is a medical system that has been used in China to treat animals for thousands of years. It is an adaptation and extension of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) used to treat humans. Speaking broadly, Chinese Medicine is a complete body of thought and practice grounded in Chinese Daoist philosophy. Though it can be traced back over two millennia in recorded history, it, like any medical system, continues to evolve today, and current research on acupuncture and herbal medicine is beginning to shed light on its mechanism of action.
Disharmony and Disease
In Chinese Medicine theory, disease is understood as an imbalance in the body, and diagnosis proceeds through identifying the underlying “pattern” of disharmony. Pattern diagnosis differs from conventional Western medical diagnosis in that it takes into account not only disease signs but how these signs relate to the individual patient. Thus, TCVM practitioners will consider the temperament, sex, age, activity, and environment of an animal along with the animal’s particular disease signs. This approach stems from the belief that the body is as an interconnected system of forces and functions so that disease and disharmony must be examined with respect to the whole patient. For this reason, Chinese Medicine is often regarded as more holistic than conventional Western Medicine.
Acupuncture is a treatment that involves the stimulation of points, typically achieved through the insertion of specialized needles into the body. Acupuncture points typically lie along the body’s Meridian Channels along which Qi flows. Most veterinary acupuncture points and Meridian lines are transposed to animals from humans, though knowledge of some “classical points” defined on particular species have been retained and are used to this day.
Herbal Medicine utilizes herbal ingredients listed within the Chinese Herbal Materia Medica in particular combinations or formulas to treat particular disease patterns. Herbal formulas are administered orally and are typically given in powder form to horses and other large animals and in tea pill or capsule form to cats and dogs.
Food Therapy is the use of diet to treat and prevent imbalance within the body. It utilizes knowledge of the energetics of food ingredients to tailor diets for individual animals.
Tui-na is a form of Chinese medical massage in which different manipulations are applied to acupoints and Meridians to promote the circulation of Qi and correct imbalances within the organ systems.
“Integrative” Medicine: TCVM and Western Veterinary Practice
TCVM is often viewed as a form of complementary therapy, and is best when used in conjunction with Western Veterinary Medicine (WVM). Both TCVM and WVM have their own strengths and weaknesses. TCVM is a holistic approach that is suited to assessing the well-being of the whole patient, and treatments are generally non-invasive with few side effects. However, TCVM lacks the tools necessary to pinpoint illness to specific disease-causing agents like pathogenic bacteria or viruses, and treatments are better suited for chronic conditions than acute ones. On the other hand, WVM utilizes the tools of modern science to diagnose disease with great precision, and Western drugs and procedures are powerful and fast acting. However, its insistence on detailed diagnosis may come at the expense of getting the larger picture. Furthermore, while modern medicine can perform miracles for trauma and acute injuries, it has little to offer chronic conditions like liver failure and atopy which can be treated effectively with acupuncture and herbal medicine. In many ways, TCVM and WVM each has what the other lacks. Thus, the best medical system involves the integration of the two systems, so that the strengths of one can compensate for the weaknesses of the other.
Information courtesy of the Chi Institute http://www.tcvm.com/About/WhatisTCVM.aspx